Spain’s scandal-hit princess haunts king’s banquet
As thousands celebrate Spanish King Felipe VI's enthronement Thursday, his sister Cristina will be notably absent. When the guests disperse, the cloud of scandal over her and the family will stay.
The smiley blonde Cristina, 49, is not invited to the party for the succession, since she is at the centre of the corruption scandal that partly prompted it.
“Cristina will be conspicuous by her absence,” said one royal specialist, the author Abel Hernandez.
Uncomfortably for her brother, once he takes the crown she is likely soon to top the news agenda again. She is waiting to hear whether she will go on trial for tax fraud.
“If they put her on trial, it will be big news,” said Hernandez.
The scandal erupted in late 2011 when a judge in Mallorca named Cristina’s husband Inaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma, as a suspect in an embezzlement probe.
The palace banned the duke from royal functions. Cristina stood by him and was excluded too. The couple last year moved to Switzerland, where Cristina works for a charitable foundation.
The scandal soon swallowed her up too. The investigating judge Jose Castro in January named her as a suspect on tax fraud and money-laundering accusations linked to Urdangarin’s affairs.
In February she became the first direct member of the king’s family to stand in court accused of wrongdoing. She told the judge she knew little of her husband’s dealings.
– Inheriting a scandal –
The damage was done, however. The affair plunged Juan Carlos’s family into its worst scandal since his reign began in 1975.
He announced his abdication on June 2, saying it was time for a “new generation” to take over and freshen up the monarchy.
“The abdication of the king creates a kind of firewall, so Felipe will suffer much less than his father” from the scandal, Hernandez said.
He judged it would in time “die down considerably, even in the eyes of the public”.
Some analysts say however Juan Carlos is handing over not only the crown, but the yoke of the scandal.
“From now on, it is Felipe’s image that is going to suffer from the Urdangarin case,” warned Jose Apezarena, author of a recent book on Felipe and Letizia, the new queen.
The royals hope the transition can transform the fortunes of the monarchy.
Juan Carlos was widely respected for helping guide Spain to democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
But now his popularity has plunged, angering Spaniards who are generally weary from years of political scandals.
“They are supposed to represent us, but they have been the first ones to get mixed up in all the fun and games that have gone on,” said Paula Aciego, a 22-year-old student sitting with friends in a park near Madrid’s old Royal Palace.
– Keeping her distance –
Felipe will be joined for his swearing-in at parliament by Letizia, their two daughters, his mother Queen Sofia, his elder sister Elena and his two aunts, Pilar and Margarita.
Cristina and her divorced elder sister Elena will now cease to be part of the core “Royal Family”.
They will make way for Felipe’s daughters, seven-year-old Sofia and Leonor, who at eight years will become the youngest direct heir to a European throne.
Juan Carlos is skipping Felipe’s swearing-in at parliament on Thursday morning so as not to draw attention away from the prince.
The palace confirmed to AFP that Cristina would stay away from that ceremony too, as well as the new king and queen’s reception afterwards for 2,000 guests at Madrid’s old Royal Palace.
Where will she spend the historic day? “We do not know,” a palace official said.